Objectives and outputs
British Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rican Bank Floristic Province
The British Virgin Islands (BVI), one of the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are situated 96 km east of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot. The main islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke together with over fifty smaller islands and cays comprising a land area of only 153 km2. The landscape varies from steep-sided hills of volcanic origin arising from the sea on the largest island, Tortola, to the flat coral limestone island of Anegada which reaches a maximum of 8 m above sea level. Many different habitat types are found in BVI, such as coastal dunes, xeric coastal scrub, Caribbean dry forest, Caribbean mesic forest, mangroves and salt ponds.
Botanically, the BVI are part of the Puerto Rican Bank Floristic Province which also includes the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Based on the Smithsonian Institute's Catalogue of Seed Plants of The West Indies, there are 911 plant species recorded from BVI and 71% of those are native. We know of five plant species endemic to BVI: Vachellia anegadensis, Calyptranthes kiaerskovii, Metastelma anegadense, Pitcairnia jareckii and Senna polyphylla var. neglecta.
Identifying Tropical Important Plant Areas in BVI
Despite BVI having several legally protected areas, knowledge on the location and distribution of threatened plants and habitats is still needed to provide a framework for the protection and management of the most important sites for wild plant diversity. Important Plant Areas (IPAs) are a network of key sites for the conservation of wild plants and threatened habitats, which can provide this framework for conservation. The global criteria and methodology for identifying IPAs were published in 2004 by Plantlife International. Since then 1,771 IPAs have been identified across 16 countries in Europe, including the UK, and several projects have been completed around the world.
In 2015, Kew and Plantlife launched a consultation on the Important Plants Areas (IPA) Criteria and a new phase of IPA identification in the Tropics (TIPAs) became one of Kew’s scientific strategic priorities. The project ‘Identifying and Conserving Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in the British Virgin Islands’ was conceived to align the longstanding partnership between Kew’s UKOTs team and National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI). With financial support from HSBC, this highly collaborative project was started in April 2016. This will consolidate data on the status and locations of threatened plant species and enable local conservationists to make sound management decisions whilst developing standards and methodologies which can be applied more broadly in other Caribbean countries in the future.
Regional and international collaboration for plant conservation
The BVI TIPAs project is an international collaboration led by Kew and NPTVI with UK and regional partners from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus Herbarium (MAPR), Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER). These collaborations have not only contributed to the project’s outputs but also created opportunities for plant conservation efforts on a regional scale through networking and information sharing.
- Mobilise data from the Kew herbarium to compile a target list of priority native plant species for BVI and assess their current distribution and threat levels.
- Undertake botanical surveys in key areas across BVI identified with local partners through gap analysis to inform the identification of Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs).
- Consolidate available species and habitat data to direct fieldwork in BVI, inform Red List assessments and enable national authorities to prioritise plant species and habitat protection.
- Designate Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in BVI making maps and associated species level data available for incorporation into the BVI National Geographic Information System (GIS).
- Host a regional workshop to promote closer links across the Puerto Rican Bank and introduce the TIPAs methodology.
- BVI priority species list supported by digitised vouchers and observations of these species incorporated into Kew’s UKOTs Species and Specimens Database.
- Species assessments of endemic and near-endemic BVI plants submitted to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- Three identification guides developed on endemic plant species, threatened habitats and invasive plant species for BVI based on field surveys and literature.
- Guide to the TIPAs of BVI published which describes the project outputs and outlines the methodology and criteria used for identifying TIPAs and their value in conservation management and decision making.
Partners and collaborators
British Virgin Islands
- National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI). Follow NPTVI on Facebook.
- Herbarium of the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus (MAPR)
- Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER)
Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
- UKOTs Online Herbarium
- Twitter: #BVITIPAs
- Kew Science Blog: Putting Tropical Important Plant Areas on the map
- Storify: Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAS) in the British Virgin Islands
- Tropical Important Plant Areas (Kew Strategic Output)